6-Week Series: Against All Odds

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Summary: It seems very clear from both the Bible and life itself that everything does not work together for good just because a person loves God. Many evil things happen to those who love God.

I am a cancer survivor and struggled with the threat of it returning for years. My late wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness just before our marriage and given seven years to live. Her numerous health challenges permeated every minute detail of our lives and finances for over three decades. My father was the victim of a horrible accident and died from multiple injuries weeks later. I could go on and on.

Throughout the years, we were accused of not having enough faith, as well as having unconfessed sin in our lives, which is what caused the health challenges and hardships we faced. We were often told that it was God's will and that He 'allowed' it to teach us a lesson so that it could be used to help others when they were facing similar challenges. Some told us we needed deliverance from demons of sickness that were dwelling in our bodies. Needless to say, these "friends' of Job" weren't very good at uplifting and edification!

I had been consoled and counseled by others - who I am sure were well-intentioned - but the best they could offer was only shallow spiritual platitudes – which I think were said more out of their fear of facing the very issues I have had to confront for decades rather than from a deeply personal and experientially emotional understanding.

My wife and I spent 37 years together before she finally succumbed to the ravages of her multiple debilitating health issues. Her final months and days upon this earth, before she graduated to glory, were excruciating and painful beyond comprehension.

Most of what I was taught in my Ministry education and training was, at the very least, inadequate to prepare me for the long and arduous journey I was forced to travel. I had struggled for decades trying to reconcile the love and goodness of God with the pain and suffering we faced hourly, as well as with our loved ones, and even people around the world.

It took almost 15 years, as I was confronted by life's challenges, to learn how to look at them through the prism of God's loving goodness in the light of His character and nature. That taught me to stop asking 'why,' and instead, say to Him, "I don't understand Lord, but I will love and trust you anyway." I made the choice, and live by it to this day, to hang my life on the promise of Romans 8:28:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

Historically, the verse above has been used to teach that every situation, no matter how terrible, will turn out "good" if a person loves God. A significant reason for that is the way the verse has been translated in many versions, such as the KJV and ESV.

Grammatically, the Greek text can be translated in two different ways, with two completely different meanings. In the Greek, the phrase "all things" can be nominative (the subject) or accusative (the direct object) or used adverbially (i.e. "he works IN everything). If it is nominative then the verse should be translated, as it is in many versions, that "… we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…" (KJV). Of those choices, the adverbial use best fits the scope of Scripture because not everything that happens is God's will, but IN everything that happens, God is working for the good of those who love Him.

Many believe that everything that happens, whether good or bad, is God's will, and they translate the Greek text in a way that supports the belief "all things work together for good." As a result, some suggest that the phrase "all things" is using "all" in its limited sense and refers to less than "all" things. However, this weakens the statement so much it becomes almost pointless. Indeed, there are times when "all" can mean "some." This happens in two ways. The first way is by seeing "all" as a figure of speech (synecdoche) in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for the part. The second way is that the context of the verse limits the meaning of all to the "all" in the context, or "some" overall.

The problem with "all things" being a synecdoche is that there is nothing in the context that demands it, and no apparent reason for it. Usually, when "all" is used for the greater part (i.e., "most things"), the synecdoche is obvious, and the more significant part can justify the use of "all." That does not appear to be the case here.

It seems very clear from both the Bible and life itself that everything does not work together for good just because a person loves God. Many evil things happen to those who love God. The earth is a war zone, with the forces of good fighting the forces of evil. Sometimes, the devil can wreak havoc on God's purposes. Everything does not even work for good for God Himself. God wants everyone to be saved, but they will not all be; He wants people to come to a knowledge of the truth, but all do not; He wants people to obey and love Him, but they do not (1 Tim 2:4-6). So, if all things do not work together for good for God Himself, how can all things work together for God's people?

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